Agenda item

Update: The Box and its performance


Councillor Jemima Laing (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care, Culture, Events and Communications) introduced the report on The Box and highlighted:


a)    The Box had been a hugely ambitious capital project and opened in September 2020 in the midst of the global COVID19 pandemic to critical acclaim and had gone from strength to strength;

b)    The Box had more than 600,000 visits in total with 245,987 of those in the last financial year and was on target to do just as well in 2023/24;

c)    More than 10,000 people had taken part in The Box’s family programme and had generated £429,830 in the previous financial year and was building its fundraising capabilities in a competitive environment;

d)    There had been an ambitious summer programme at The Box, and it had had 52,000 visitors over the 6 weeks of the school holidays, and the team were preparing for the Autumn programme;

e)    Solomon Hart’s work ‘The execution of Lady Jane Grey’ would be on display from 27 September 2023;

f)     The Box was diversifying and growing the ways it used it spaces, one example was a monthly bazaar that occurred outside the entrance on the last Saturday of each month with local diversity business incubators, food stalls and music and entertainment;

g)    The innovative work of The Box was being noticed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally;

h)    Visitors to Plymouth from the LGA had been very impressed with The Box and what Plymouth had to offer;

i)     The Box continued to raise the profile of Plymouth whilst contributing positively to the health and wellbeing of the city, being a fantastic learning resource, and supporting creativity, especially for children and young people;

j)     The press and media coverage for The Box had an advertising value of £5 million with a global reach of 187 million people.

Victoria Pomery (CEO of The Box) added:


k)    Visitor numbers had peaked at different points each year that The Box had been open which had been due to the summer holidays falling slightly differently, as well as the weather as it was often busier on wetter days;

l)     The team worked hard to ensure that the offer was strong and the venue was accessible and welcoming;

m)  Victoria was excited about the future of culture in Plymouth and the positive impact it could have on the city as a whole.


In response to questions raised it was further explained, with Kate Farmery (Head of Business, The Box) and David Draffan (Service Director for Economic Development) that:


n)    It was challenging for schools to get older students to visit venues like The Box as part of the curriculum;

o)    The Arts Council funded The Box as a visual arts organisation, rather than as a museum or archive and although some exhibitions might not be populist to some, they did make the most of The Box’s collection;

p)    Data on visitors had been collected and analysed but more would be done with a planned increase in surveys, primarily through interviewer-led exit surveys and would look at where they were visiting from, their motivations for visiting and how long they spent there;

q)    They hoped to have a significantly improved data set for the annual update for the Committee in 2024;

r)    The team always considered how to make works relevant for contemporary audiences;

s)     There were challenges faced in the sector of changing the demographics of who engaged with cultural activities, but this was a challenge that the team were keen to tackle and to remove the perceived, but very real, barriers for access;

t)     Councillors had a role in advocating for The Box and encouraging people to visit, especially for people who felt it wasn’t ‘for them’;

u)    2023 had been the 50th Anniversary of Pele playing at Plymouth Argyle, and an exhibition marking this had brought a very different demographic to The Box, and the team were looking at items in the collection that had the potential to bring in different audiences;

v)    The team at The Box were keen to make the opportunities to work in places like The Box more visible to people and that there was a wide range of areas through which to get involved, and a some apprentice roles had been made available at The Box and Councillor Laing wanted to think more about how the ‘behind the scenes’ jobs in the cultural industry could be promoted;

w)   The donation strategy was going to be reviewed and refreshed, including a refresh of donation boxes on site, ensuring staff felt more comfortable asking for donations on site and more visibility of how to donate online;

x)    The Box was receiving donations close to the national average, but it was ambitious and wanted to achieve more.


The Committee agreed to note the report.


Supporting documents: